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Learning about Conflict Resolution

Conflict resolution is the process of managing and resolving a disagreement or dispute between two or more parties in a constructive and mutually satisfactory way. It involves identifying the root cause of the conflict, understanding the perspectives and needs of all parties involved, and finding a solution that addresses the underlying issues to meet the interests of everyone involved. Conflict resolution can be applied in a variety of settings, such as personal relationships, workplaces, communities, and international diplomacy. Common forms of conflict resolution include mediation, arbitration, restorative justice, and peacebuilding.

Mediation is a form of conflict resolution in which a neutral third party, called a mediator, helps to facilitate a discussion between two or more parties in dispute. The mediator's role is to guide the parties through the process of identifying the underlying issues and finding a mutually satisfactory solution. Mediation is often used in legal disputes, such as divorce and employment-related issues, but it can also be used in a range of other contexts, including community disputes, business conflicts, and international diplomacy.

During the mediation process, the mediator typically meets with the parties separately to gain an understanding of their perspectives and interests. They then bring the parties together to facilitate a discussion in which each party has the opportunity to express their concerns, needs, and goals. The mediator helps to keep the discussion focused and on track, and encourages the parties to listen to each other and explore different options for resolving the conflict.

Arbitration is a legal process for resolving disputes between parties in which a neutral third party, called an arbitrator, is appointed to hear evidence and make a binding decision. It is often used as an alternative to litigation in court, as it is typically faster, less formal, and less costly. During arbitration, the parties present their evidence and arguments to the arbitrator, who then decides an outcome based on the facts and the law. The decision is typically final and binding. One of the benefits of arbitration is that it is a private process, meaning that the proceedings and the decision are not made public. This can be particularly beneficial in cases where the parties involved wish to keep the details of the dispute confidential.

Restorative justice
is a set of principles and practices rooted in indigenous societies. Restorative justice can be applied both reactively in response to conflict and/or crime, and proactively to strengthen communities. Restorative justice offers a different paradigm from conventional approaches to crime and punishment. While the criminal legal system focuses on punishing the  wrong-doer and relies on imprisonment to prevent further harm, restorative justice focuses on meeting the needs of those who have been harmed while also inviting those who have caused harm into a process of active accountability. Acknowledging our interconnectedness, restorative justice invites all those who have been impacted by harm into a conversation. Collectively, these individuals discuss the underlying causes of harm and determine a path to move forward. Rather than realizing justice as "punishment," restorative justice conceives of it as "repair" to the harm caused by crime and conflict. Understanding and responding to the needs of each involved party and the broader community is central to the collective creation of a just outcome.    

Restorative justice reflects the capacity of all people for healing, growth, and transformation by creating pathways for accountability, self-determination, and connection. Beyond the individuals directly impacted by conflict or harm, restorative justice asks each of us to reflect on our collective responsibility for creating conditions that enable and foster harm, and tasks us with supporting accountability and safety. Restorative justice has a range of applications within communities, schools, and the justice system. It may also be used to address mass social conflict and/or injustice.

Peacebuilding is a range of activities aimed at promoting sustainable peace and preventing the reoccurrence of conflict in societies that have experienced violent conflicts or are at risk of such conflicts. Peacebuilding is a complex and multidimensional process that involves addressing the root causes of conflict, promoting reconciliation and trust-building, as well as strengthening institutions and governance structures to ensure their greater inclusivity, accountability, and responsiveness to all members of society. It can involve a wide range of actors, including local communities, civil society organizations, governments, international organizations, and peacekeeping forces. Some common peacebuilding strategies include promoting intergroup dialogue and cooperation, supporting conflict resolution and reconciliation processes, strengthening democratic institutions, and promoting economic development and social justice.  

The ultimate goal of peacebuilding is to establish a lasting and sustainable peace, which is characterized by social cohesion, political stability, and economic development. Peacebuilding efforts can take a long time and require sustained engagement and commitment from all stakeholders.

Association for Conflict Resolution - Greater New York Chapter


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